Archives February 2020

Will you be at the WMATA Town Hall Monday night?

The Montgomery County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee (Tom Hucker, Evan Glass, Hans Riemer) is hosting a public forum on WMATA’s FY21 Operating Budget. The committee will be joined by WMATA Board Member Michael Goldman to listen to community feedback. Please join us and share your feedback on WMATA’s current operating budget proposal.

Friends of White Flint will testify at the meeting to advocate for northern metro entrance funding for the White Flint station.

Sign-up here to RSVP or to speak: 

https://form.jotform.com/200544525953152

Pike & Rose Updates (and one involves free ice cream!)

Evoluxxy Opens

Evoluxxy, a women’s fashion boutique that carries designer brands , has opened at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda. The store is at 11811 Grand Park Ave., between Olive & Loom and Lucky Brand.

It is the company’s first brick-and-mortar shop, according to Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns the mixed-use development.

A grand opening celebration is scheduled for Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.

The boutique’s curated designers include Max Mara Weekend, Vince, AGOLDE, MOTHER DENIM, Maison Kitsune, Yuul Yie and Etc. The store says it will also offer styling and personal shopping, shopping parties, and trunk shows.

“Pike and Rose offers some of the finest restaurants and retailers in the DMV and it is growing bigger and better,” said Amanda Dolin, owner of Evoluxxy. “We look forward to bringing our variety of nationally and internationally acclaimed labels to the neighborhood. Whether you are looking for a trendy piece, simple cocktail dress or a formal outfit, we’ve got it all.”

Free Baked Bear to celebrate leap day!

The Baked Bear will be celebrating all their amazing customers this Saturday, February 29th, by giving out free scoops of ice cream (one per customer) from when they open until the sun goes down (6pm)! Make sure to come by and get your free scoop! 

Rents in North Bethesda Growing Fast

From WTOP

Based solely on jurisdiction, Bethesda currently tops the area for most expensive rent. Apartment search site RentCafe said the average apartment rent, considering all sizes, is $2,466 a month in Bethesda.

The second-most expensive market for apartment rents is currently College Park, at an average $2,298 a month.

Rents in North Bethesda have increased the fastest in the D.C. metro area, up 8.1% from a year ago, to an average $2,239.

The District and Arlington County are virtually tied for average apartment rent, at $2,233 and $2,236 respectively. Rents in D.C. and Arlington County are both up 4.3% in the last year.

The average rent in Alexandria is currently $1,746, up 2.8% from a year ago.

https://wtop.com/business-finance/2020/02/most-expensive-washington-area-rent-bethesda/

White Flint sites remain in contention for new elementary school

From Bethesda Beat

Montgomery County Public Schools is studying where to open another elementary school in about six years to relieve crowding in the Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school clusters.

Seth Adams, the director of MCPS’ Department of Facilities Management, announced Tuesday at the start of a community meeting at North Bethesda Middle School that the list of 10 choices has been cut to six.

More than 100 people attended the meeting to hear the latest on the search for a school site.

The four sites being removed from the list are Ayrlawn Park on Oakmont Avenue, Alta Vista on Beech Avenue, Rocking Horse on Macon Road, and Montrose Center on Academy Way. Adams said there are challenges with those sites — particularly their current and future use.

The remaining sites under consideration (some of which have buildings now used for other reasons or unused) are:

Grosvenor Elementary School on Grosvenor Lane (a current holding facility for school construction projects)

Kensington Elementary School on Detrick Avenue

Lynnbrook Center on Lynnbrook Drive in East Bethesda (site of a former school)

WMAL on Greentree Road

Two White Flint properties. The last two properties have been called White Flint South and White Flint North, but there was some confusion at the end of Tuesday’s meeting about whether the correct address was considered for one of them. MCPS and DLR Group, a school design firm helping with the site selection, will work on preparing a summary of the correct site, if needed.

https://bethesdamagazine.com/bethesda-beat/bethesda/four-sites-dropped-from-consideration-for-new-bethesda-school/?utm_source=Bethesda+Magazine+Master+List&utm_campaign=32f53f9768-Beat-02.19.20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1bbe9df5d9-32f53f9768-104429903&mc_cid=32f53f9768&mc_eid=5825e45cb9

Update of Josiah Henson Renovation Project

Did you know the Pike District/White Flint area is the home of an important and fascinating piece of our nation’s history?

Josiah Henson Park is the former plantation property of Isaac Riley where Reverend Josiah Henson was enslaved. This park is a historic resource of local, state, national and international significance because of its association with Reverend Henson, whose 1849 autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Park contains the historic Riley/Bolten House (1800-1815) and its attached log kitchen (1850-51). The Josiah Henson Park is part of the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program.

The Josiah Henson Park is a 3.34-acre park located at 11420 Old Georgetown Road in the Luxmanor Community of North Bethesda. The goal of the current renovation project is to create a museum dedicated to telling the story of resilience and perseverance in overcoming slavery, based on the detailed words and experiences of Josiah Henson – enslaved in Montgomery County for much of his life.  The museum will reopen later this year.

The renovation project, now under construction, includes:

  • the conversion of the historic Riley/Bolten House into a public museum,
  • the construction of a new 2,900 SF visitor center with a bus-drop off the area and a three-car parking lot on the former Rozier property, and
  • the installation of exhibits that educate and interpret African American History in Montgomery County, including a first-person narrative of Josiah Henson.

No — don’t click away. There is some really interesting data in this Subdivision Staging Policy presentation.

The Planning Department gave a fascinating presentation about the Subdivision Staging Policy at our community meeting earlier this month. I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and peruse these PowerPoint slides.

The Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP) is the set of policy tools that guides the timely delivery of public facilities to serve existing and future development, and defines adequacy and how we measure it. The policy is updated every four years, and the County Council must adopt the new SSP by November 15, 2020.

If you don’t have time to look at all the slides, here are few especially interesting ones.

Home Depot has designs on Rockville Pike

From Store Reporter

Home Depot Design Center, second of its kind in the country, is on the way to Rockville’s Montrose Crossing shopping center. The Washington Business Journal reports that the store will take over the onetime Golf Galaxy space, which has been sitting empty for two years next to Barnes & Noble. The interior will feature kitchen and bath showrooms, high-end appliances and flooring, and an army of designers to plan and execute your project. It’s not clear whether this store will encompass part of the Barnes & Noble space after the bookstore moves out next year.

How is MoCo Doing on Pedestrian Safety?

Adam Pagnucco wrote a terrific analysis in The Seventh State about spending on pedestrian safety projects and the impact of that spending. The entire article is below, but if you only have a couple of minutes, here are the sentences Friends of White Flint thinks is most important. This analysis argues for smarter, lighter, quicker, faster projects to enhance pedestrian safety in the Pike District and across Montgomery County. (See our blog post from Feb. 12)

MoCo’s spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects steadily accelerated from $44 million in the FY7-12 CIP to $225 million in the FY19-24 CIP.  Major projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the MD-355 BRAC crossing and the Capital Crescent Trail are partially responsible for these increases.  However, the FY21-26 executive recommended budget is a step back.  The six-year total pedestrian and bikeway spending of $181 million is the lowest since the FY13-18 amended budget.  So is the percentage of the total capital budget accounted for by pedestrian and bikeway projects.

MoCo spends a lot of money on pedestrian projects, but is the county getting a good return?  A 2007 county council press release states that the county averaged 430 pedestrian collisions per year from 2003 through 2006.  The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that the county averaged 459 pedestrian crashes from 2014 through 2018.  Between the two periods, the county’s population rose by 13% while its pedestrian crashes rose by 7%.  Is that a sufficiently positive result from the enormous sums the county has spent in recent years?  Given the significant needs in this area and the limited resources in the capital budget, the county may wish to study the most cost-effective ways of promoting pedestrian safety and direct its funding accordingly.

From The Seventh State by Adam Pagnucco

Pedestrian safety is arguably THE hottest issue in MoCo government right now.  With several recent high profile pedestrian deaths and residents swarming a county council meeting on the subject, alarmed elected officials are terming pedestrian crashes a “public health crisis” and demanding action.  The county has responded by hiring a full-time pedestrian safety coordinator and is promising more to come.

Pedestrian safety has been a challenge in Montgomery County for decades.  How well is the county doing on this issue?

First, let’s look at MoCo’s rate of pedestrian involved crashes in comparison to the rest of the state.  The table below, sourced from data provided by the Maryland Department of Transportation, compares the average annual number of pedestrian crashes by county to county populations.

Three of the top four counties on a per capita basis – Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County – are among the most urbanized jurisdictions in the state.  The other county in the top four – Worcester – has an unusual amount of pedestrian activity on the Ocean City boardwalk.  MoCo ranks 7th of 24 counties on crash rate but its average annual crash rate per 1,000 residents (0.44) is below the state average (0.54).  Admittedly, the state average is skewed upwards by Baltimore City.

It’s interesting that MoCo’s pedestrian crash rate is similar to less urbanized jurisdictions like Wicomico, Dorchester and Washington Counties.  Urbanized counties should have greater volumes of pedestrian activity because of a greater abundance of walkable districts.  MoCo certainly has more of those than Wicomico, Dorchester and Washington Counties.  That suggests that MoCo isn’t a relatively bad performer on this measure given its substantial (and increasing) urbanization.

One thing MoCo does is spend significant amounts of capital money on pedestrian projects.  The table below compares capital budget spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects (the two are one category) to total capital spending excluding the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in the last 16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budgets. 

MoCo’s spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects steadily accelerated from $44 million in the FY7-12 CIP to $225 million in the FY19-24 CIP.  Major projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the MD-355 BRAC crossing and the Capital Crescent Trail are partially responsible for these increases.  However, the FY21-26 executive recommended budget is a step back.  The six-year total pedestrian and bikeway spending of $181 million is the lowest since the FY13-18 amended budget.  So is the percentage of the total capital budget accounted for by pedestrian and bikeway projects.

All of this gives rise to two questions.

1.  MoCo spends a lot of money on pedestrian projects, but is the county getting a good return?  A 2007 county council press release states that the county averaged 430 pedestrian collisions per year from 2003 through 2006.  The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that the county averaged 459 pedestrian crashes from 2014 through 2018.  Between the two periods, the county’s population rose by 13% while its pedestrian crashes rose by 7%.  Is that a sufficiently positive result from the enormous sums the county has spent in recent years?  Given the significant needs in this area and the limited resources in the capital budget, the county may wish to study the most cost-effective ways of promoting pedestrian safety and direct its funding accordingly.

2.  As noted above, the executive’s new recommended capital budget decreases pedestrian and bikeway spending to its lowest level in seven years.  One reason for that is that the overall level of capital spending is declining.  (That’s a subject for a future series.)  With all areas of the capital budget under stress and the looming possibility that school construction delays will trigger residential moratoriums, it’s extremely difficult to add or even maintain funding for any program, not just pedestrian and bikeway projects.  That said, county elected officials will look terrible if they declare pedestrian safety to be a “public health crisis” but then cut funding for pedestrian and bikeway capital projects.

Overall, MoCo’s record on pedestrian safety is not a bad one when compared to the rest of Maryland.  But funding constraints could hinder its prospects for improvement.

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Pedestrian Improvements

Budgets are tight and people are still getting struck by cars, so let’s look at some low-cost, quick-to-install pedestrian improvements. Not after a year of study. Not by over-engineering a project until it’s unaffordable. Not by letting perfect get in the way of good enough. Let’s use these tested, vetted methods to make pedestrians safe and walking accessible to all in the Pike District.

WalkBoston created an excellent guide which you can read here at https://www.walkboston.org/sites/default/files/WalkBoston%20-%20Low%20Cost%20Pedestrian%20Improvements.pdf

Below are some of their ideas (if you don’t have time to look through the full WalkBoston guide.

Paint with a purpose

Well-marked crosswalks: Intersections and heavily used midblock crossings need wide, well-painted crosswalks. A 10-foot crosswalk is ideal. Keep the paint fresh to ensure visibility. Signs may be needed to make pedestrians aware of unexpected traffic movements such as right turns on red.

Lane markings: Painting fog lines – the road edge lines that define a single vehicle lane of 10 or 11 feet – helps reduce vehicle speeds. Stripes that mark parking lanes and bicycle lanes have a similar effect.

Curb bump-outs: Make streets narrower by painting a curb extension directly on the street. Bump-outs make walkers more visible, shorten crossing distances and provide larger waiting areas.

Tighter corners: A tight painted corner (think small downtown vs. highway interchange) makes drivers reduce their speeds when turning. This also shortens the crossing distance for walkers.

Improved visibility at intersections: “Daylighting” an intersection, as in the photo above, refers to providing clear sight lines between pedestrians crossing and drivers in cars. People walking and driving can see one another better if vehicles are parked farther back from corners and crosswalks.

Advanced yield “shark teeth” markings: Triangles painted directly on the street warn drivers of an upcoming crossing so they are reminded to slow down.

Add signs

In street yield to ped signs: A reflective, flexible sign in the middle of an unsignalized crossing reminds people driving that they must yield to people walking. These signs narrow travel lanes and slow traffic.

Pedestrian crossing signs: Roadside signs provide visual cues for drivers to slow down and look for people in crosswalks. They can be mounted on reflective posts or include flashing lights to improve their visibility.

Slow zone signs: Drivers can be warned that reduced speed limits are in place for schools, senior centers, parks, etc.

Wayfinding signs: These help people find their way around a community and encourage walking. They can include directional arrows, walk times and distances to local landmarks and services. Sign systems can be permanent or temporary.

Make streets lively

Parklets: Usually created in one or more on-street parking spaces, parklets create new sidewalk space for people to gather, sit or eat. Additionally, when people gather closer to the roadway, drivers automatically slow down. A parklet can be a seasonal and temporary installation, ideally located in a business district.

Pop-up parks: Often larger than a parklet and can enliven underutilized public sidewalks, streets, or plazas for people to use. For instance they might take over an entire street on a summer Sunday to encourage walking or create a place for seating and games. They are always temporary.

Benches: Places to sit allow old and young to eat, rest, talk, gather, enjoy the weather and read.

Trees & Planters: In addition to providing shade, beauty and improving environmental conditions, street trees are a useful safety tool, making streets feel narrower and slowing traffic. Planters create a safety buffer between vehicles and people walking.

Banners: Overhead banners help create a sense of place and a distinctive community character. They can add decorative elements to a streetscape and advertise events.

Lighting: Pedestrian-scale lighting (about 12–16 feet high) illuminates sidewalks, benches, bus stops and other amenities that make walking feel comfortable. Temporary holiday and event lighting creates an inviting sense of place.